An act of the virtue of religion which consists in asking proper gifts or graces from God. In a more general sense it is the application of the mind to Divine things, not merely to acquire a knowledge of them but to make use of such knowledge as a means of union with God. This may be done by acts of praise and thanksgiving, but petition is the principal act of prayer.
- The Rosary Prayer
- How to Prepare Before Prayer
- 15 Prayers of Saint Bridget
- Prayer of St Ephrem
- Prayers for the Dead
- Catholic Prayers and Novenas
What is Prayer?Prayer is converse with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a "beseeching the Lord" (Ex. 32:11); "pouring out the soul before the Lord" (1 Sam. 1:15); "praying and crying to heaven" (2 Chr. 32:20); "seeking unto God and making supplication" (Job 8:5); "drawing near to God" (Ps. 73:28); "bowing the knees" (Eph. 3:14).
Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of a hymn, incantation, formal creedal statement, or a spontaneous utterance in the praying person. There are different forms of prayer such as petitionary prayer, prayers of supplication, thanksgiving; prayers for the purpose of worship and praise, requesting guidance, requesting assistance, confessing sins or to express one's thoughts and emotions. Thus, people pray for many reasons such as personal benefit or for the sake of others.
Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to hold intercourse with us, his personal control of all things and of all his creatures and all their actions. Acceptable prayer must be sincere (Heb. 10:22), offered with reverence and godly fear, with a humble sense of our own insignificance as creatures and of our own unworthiness as sinners, with earnest importunity, and with unhesitating submission to the divine will.
Prayer must also be offered in the faith that God is and that he exist, and that he is the hearer and answerer of prayer, and that he will fulfill his word, "Ask, and ye shall receive" (Matt. 7:7, 8; 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13, 14).
To be efficacious prayer should be humble. There are innumerable testimonies in Scripture to the power of humility in prayer. "A contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). "The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds" (Eccl. 35:21).
In Christianity, prayer in the name of Christ is enjoined (John 16:23, 24; 15:16; Eph. 2:18; 5:20; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:5).
Prayer is of different kinds, it is secret, in loneliness with God (Matt. 6:6); and social, as family prayers, and in social worship; and public, in the service of the sanctuary.
Intercessory prayer is enjoined in Scripture (Num. 6:23; Job 42:8; Isa. 62:6; Ps. 122:6; 1 Tim. 2:1; James 5:14), and there are many instances on record of answers having been given to such prayers, eg, of Abraham (Gen. 17:18, 20; 18:23-32; 20: 7, 17, 18), of Moses for Pharaoh (Ex. 8: 12, 13, 30, 31; Ex. 9:33), for the Israelites (Ex. 17:11, 13; 32:11-14, 31-34; Num. 21:7, 8; Deut. 9:18, 19, 25), for Miriam (Num. 12:13), for Aaron (Deut. 9:20), of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:5-12), of Solomon (1 Kings 8; 2 Chr. 6), Elijah (1 Kings 17: 20-23), Elisha (2 Kings 4:33-36), Isaiah (2 Kings 19), Jeremiah (42:2-10), Peter (Acts 9:40), the church (12:5-12), Paul (28:8).
Prayers can be done while walking, while driving the car, while eating, and so forth. We should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
A variety of body postures may be assumed, often with specific meaning (mainly respect or adoration) associated with them: standing; sitting; kneeling; prostrate on the floor; eyes opened; eyes closed; hands folded or clasped; hands upraised; holding hands with others; a laying on of hands and others. Prayers may be recited from memory, read from a book of prayers, or composed spontaneously as they are prayed. They may be said, chanted, or sung. They may be with musical accompaniment or not. There may be a time of outward silence while prayers are offered mentally. Often, there are prayers to fit specific occasions, such as the blessing of a meal, the birth or death of a loved one, other significant events in the life of a believer, or days of the year that have special religious significance.
The most important factor in prayer is attitude.
Posture, language, place or time do not matter. Man's heart must be in relationship with God. Jesus has left us an unsurpassed and perfect example of the importance of prayer in one's life (the Lord's Prayer Matt. 6:9-13).
Prayer is frequently enjoined in Scripture (Ex. 22:23, 27; 1 Kings 3:5; 2 Chr. 7:14; Ps. 37:4; Isa. 55:6; Joel 2:32; Ezek. 36:37, etc.), and we have very many testimonies that it has been answered (Ps. 3:4; 4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34: 4; 118:5; James 5:16-18, etc.).
15:31; 16: 20-23; 17:14-23).
Some things are brought to pass only as man prays (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Prayer is essentially communion. God desires man's fellowship, and man needs the friendship of God.
As a many-faceted phenomenon, prayer includes the following elements:
The following principles are regulative in prayer:
From the standpoint of human responsibility, prayer is the major element in the out-working of God's redemptive program (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Neglect of prayer is a sin (1 Sam. 12:23). Prayer is necessary for salvation. Without prayer we cannot resist temptation, nor obtain God's grace, nor grow and persevere in it.
Prayer in the Bible
In the common Bible of the Abrahamic religions, various forms of prayer appear; the most common forms being petition, thanksgiving, and worship. The longest book in the Bible is the Book of Psalms, 150 religious songs which are often regarded as prayers. Other well-known Biblical prayers include the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18), the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). But perhaps the best-known prayer in the Bible is the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:2-4).
In biblical religion prayer is understood as both a gift and a task. God takes the initiative (Ezek. 2:1-2; Ps. 50:3-4), but man must respond. This kind of prayer is personalistic and dialogic. It entails revealing our innermost selves to God but also God's revelation of his desires to us (Prov. 1:23).
Biblical prayer is crying to God out of the depths; it is the pouring out of the soul before God (1 Sam. 1:15; Pss. 88:1-2; 130:1-2; 142:1-2; Lam. 2:19; Matt. 7:7-8; Phil. 4:6; Heb. 5:7). It often takes the form of importunity, passionate pleading to God, even wrestling with God.
Such an attitude presupposes that God's ultimate will is unchanging, but the way in which he chooses to realize this will is dependent on the prayers of his children. He wants us as covenant partners, not as automatons or slaves. In this restricted sense prayer may be said to change the will of God. But more fundamentally it is sharing with God our needs and desires so that we might be more fully conformed to his ultimate will and purpose.
Prayer is like the dove that Noah sent forth, which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all.